Pressure is mounting on the ANU Union with current ANU Students’ Association President Dallas Proctor and Education Officer Tom Barrington-Smith launching withering public attacks on its competency and transparency in their bid for seats on the Union Board. The Board manages ANU Bar and food outlets and facilities in the Union Building and is holding elections this week for three undergraduate seats and one postgraduate seat.
Mr Proctor and Mr Barrington-Smith have accused the Board of “hiding its activities from students”, pointing to the 2011 Annual General Meeting which lasted ten minutes and “consistent failure” to adequately publicise board meetings. They also attacked the Union’s retail and food operations, calling the Union’s Functions business a “joke”.
Their actions have been slammed by the Chair of the Union Board, Michael Hiscox, who told Woroni: “Dallas and Tom are using their positions in ANUSA for the purpose of electioneering and I believe that is inappropriate.”
As Union Board terms begin in September of this year, Mr Proctor and Mr Barrington-Smith would serve simultaneously on both organisations if elected. Mr Proctor argued this would “serve to bring the two organisations much closer together, which can only benefit students.”
In response to concerns about adequately fulfilling their ANUSA responsibilities he said: “The Union [position] is a two year term [so] we have no qualms about working that little bit harder for the first 3 months to do two jobs simultaneously.”
This combative electoral tactic comes as broader concerns are raised about the Union’s work. Woroni understands that Board members have failed to attend regular meetings with Chancelry about the allocation of the Student Services Amenities Fees or attend meetings of the Grants and Affiliations and Student Experience Committees. These meetings are attended by other student organisations including ANU Student Media (publisher of Woroni), ANUSA and the ANU Sport & Recreation Association.
Last edition, Woroni revealed the Board took several months to advertise and replace a vacant seat following Joel Dennerley’s resignation in March as he undertook study abroad. Mr Dennerley’s plans for exchange were known for months in advance by the Board. He is still listed as a “Current Board Member” on the Union website.
Mr Hiscox responded: “The Board has set up a Constitutional Review Committee, that includes representatives from ANUSA and PARSA, to look at this problem to ensure that students get the most out of there student representatives.”
Appearing cognisant of the Union’s shortcomings, fellow Board member Sam Stapleton added that forthcoming constitutional amendments would “include numerous accountability and transparency measures such as more OGMs [and] more stringent obligations on Directors to fulfil their roles.”
Further concerns have been raised about the highly politicised nature of Union elections. Unlike ANUSA elections where each ticket has a spending cap of $50 per contested position, there is no cap on electoral spending for Union elections. An ANUSA representative told Woroni: “It is problematic because tickets supported by political parties have greater access to funds meaning an uneven playing field”.
The ‘Grow Your Union’ ticket has faced accusations from some current Board members about its connections to the Liberal party and the ACT Young Liberals. The ticket, under which several Board members including Xinyu Ru and Sally Renouf have run in the past, told Woroni: “No 2012 candidate is a member or has ever had a significant connection to any political party or political group.” Back To The Future’s candidates similarly distanced themselves from any political affiliation.
When reached for comment about any political connections, ‘Fresh’ said: “Some [Fresh] members have been involved in political clubs on campus.”
The ‘Fresh’ ticket is understood to be a revamp of Labor affiliated ‘Stimulate’ which has run in past Union elections. Sources told Woroni that the ‘Stimulate’ brand was dropped as a result of the “trouncing they received at the hands of Golden Ticket in the ANUSA elections last year”.
Elections for the Board, which uses a system of proportional representation, will most likely see one undergraduate candidate elected from each ticket. Two candidates from the 2011 Stimulate ticket will continue to serve on the board, as well as one Grow candidate. If this is the case, and any Fresh board members vote with Stimulate board members, the casting vote on the Board will come down to whichever ticket succeeds in having their postgraduate candidate elected.
The ANU Union will be holding its AGM this Wednesday at 6pm in the Karmel Room.
Polling for the Union Board elections takes place 10am-6pm Monday 6th August – Thursday 10th August.
Edit made at 12.21AM 8/8/2012 to remove implication that Fresh’s statement about the political connections of its candidates was in response to questions about its connections to the Stimulate ticket.